Yangon firm offering cheap co-working space

A NEW co-working space was opened here this month, to cash in on increasing demand for short-term and affordable meeting places among wannabe entrepreneurs.

Located on Nawaday Street in downtown Yangon, Sar J Poe lures target clients with amenities like free Wi-Fi, printer, scanner and projector.

The space is available for daily, weekly and monthly rents, at rates starting from 5,000 kyat (Bt145) per half-day to 160,000 kyat per month.

“Affordability is the key as renting office space can demand six- to 12-month upfront payments. Here, for up to 20 persons, they will be charged one time at only 10,000 kyat per day,” said Onravee Tangmeesang, a Thai expat who opened the venue together with a Myanmar friend.

Colliers International’s research shows that in the first half of last year, average office rents in Yangon stayed at US$66 (about Bt2,300) per square metre per month, but buildings in inner-city areas charged above-average rates.

Beside the price, another attraction is the fact that power blackouts are much less frequent in the area, a preferred living location for expats. This allows smooth Internet access.

Co-working space is still a new concept in Myanmar, but it is gaining more popularity as many young Myanmar people strive to establish their own businesses but want to limit expenses, Onravee said.

Only two co-working places are listed on www.coworker.com/myanmar – Sar J Poe and Office Cubed – the second of which is located outside the downtown area and charges only 10 kyat a day for single-desk use.

But the first was Project Hub Yangon, which opened in July 2013. The co-working business is now owned by Building Markets in the city, as Project Hub Yangon turns itself into a start-up incubator.

Building Markets charges about Bt500 per day per person.

At Sar J Poe – which means ‘bookworms’ – while co-working hours end at 7pm, the office space is turned into a learning venue from 7pm-9pm on weekdays and throughout weekends, offering courses from English language to handicrafts.

“Our main target is young professionals who yearn to generate extra income from new skills. In Thailand, there are various learning venues, but there are none here,” Onravee said.

Having been working in Yangon for two years, she has built up her own networks with local experts, and has herself taught English skills at an institute in Yangon.

The courses available at Sar J Poe in September include English for hospitality, Chinese for beginners, Thai for beginners, e-commerce and candle-making. For 16 hours, they cost 70,000 kyat each.

The courses will be changed on a monthly basis and, depending on feedback, only popular ones will be maintained with advanced content, she explained.

The business’s overall operating cost is somewhat high, Onravee said, given the huge office-rental costs in Yangon. Meanwhile, the provision of fast Wi-Fi service also incurs a cost.

To keep expenses in check, only one full-time employee is recruited, with both partners taking turns to operate the office on weekends.

“Co-working space alone may not be profitable in the long run. We need more activities to support this business. We still have to do more to promote this concept,” Onravee said.


Source: The Nation



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